By BETSY BROWN BRAUN | Special to the Palisadian-Post
Q:I feel like my teenage daughter is becoming engaged in politics, but now it’s all she seems able to talk about. How do I continue to encourage her civic engagement while also explaining that—in some social contexts—it’s best to put politics talk to the side?
It sounds like your daughter is behaving like many teens. Don’t young adults have a way of glomming onto causes that they put heart and soul—tremendous time and energy into?
True, we don’t see it as often with young teens (and you didn’t mention your daughter’s actual age). But think about how many activists and civic leaders are groomed on high school and college campuses.
Clearly you see that “civic engagement” is not a bad thing, as you don’t want to discourage that interest she has already cultivated. Good for her and for you!
Your question is, however, how can you teach your daughter the “time and place” concept when it comes to talking politics. I believe this may be a lesson that’s long in acquiring and is part of growing up.
It goes right along with learning to hold your tongue, as they say. And it is an aspect of social intelligence—knowing how to respond appropriately and to one’s greatest advantage in a variety of situations.
Social intelligence includes cultivating the ability to read a social scene, to look for cues, to read people and to fit in accordingly. I am reminded of young kids who want to talk only about sports or superheroes.
Frequently, children choose their friends around common interests, passions and experiences. And, actually, so do adults. From a sociological perspective, they share a culture of sorts, including speaking a common language and seeing the world through similar lenses.
It sure feels like that’s what’s going on with your daughter.
It takes to time become socially and emotionally intelligent and to put mannerly behavior in front of the pursuit of more selfish interests. There are all kinds of gentle ways you can try to steer your politically minded daughter in a different direction (but never in front of others).
“I’m sure Grandma would love to hear about your summer plans.” “Jack and Jill are eager to hear about your classes.”
But a direct blast is inadvisable and will surely be seen as a personal assault. Subtlety with things our kids feel passionate about is the order of the day.
The best teacher is truly life experience. Your daughter will one day find herself with nothing to add to a conversation and get bored.
She might see her friends disappearing, her friendship circle shrinking … or not. But her perspective will broaden as will her self-awareness as she matures.
For now, know you might have a rising political star on your hands. That’s not a bad problem at all.